On March 25th, Joe Powers will perform his debut album Power Move live with his band at Lincoln Hall’s Schubas Tavern located at 3159 N. Southport Ave.. Powers is a keyboardist, singer, and now producer. This is his first large project, which has been in the works for a little over a year. In its creation, it became important for Powers to produce an album where anyone could find something they enjoy and also open up their ears to something they haven’t heard before.
Powers is currently the keyboardist for artists Ric Wilson, Wyatt Wadell and Rudy De Anda. Powers has also performed his own original music across Chicago at venues such as Lincoln Hall, Martyrs, The Gman Tavern and Golden Dagger.
The 22-year-old Chicagoan first found his passion for music at three years old. “My dad put on this documentary, ‘The Last Waltz’ by Martin Scorsese. I was very much not paying attention and playing with toys, and then Muddy Waters came on screen,” Powers said. At the time he started thinking “I want to do whatever that is.”
Power Moves (VSOP studios with Matt Hennessy working the board) brings not only new sounds but also a unique variety of musicians together. The album blends notes of jazz, house, samba, pop and indie rock. A few of the songs include solo horn arrangements and points of improvisation. Many points in the album also include harmonization, like in “Treading Water,” featuring Wilchai. Powers’ work on the electric keyboard and OP-1 synthesizer help to tie the songs together.
“I love playing with those more complex harmonies and melodies and arrangements,” Powers said. With the craftsmanship of the album comes approachability to the music as well. His intention is to walk the line of opening up listeners to new sounds they haven’t experienced before and also including more conventional, approachable sounds as well.
A few of Powers’ songs are autobiographical, drawing from personal experiences. “All the songs grew organically, ” he said. At points in the album Powers contrasts joyful music with sorrowful lyrics. “Now I’m back on my own and I’m better off without you,” Powers sings on the last track, “It’s Over.” Also singing, “now that my memories fade, try to remember your face” in “Time to Leave,” a song about a friend passing away, which expresses missing someone and also the desire to celebrate their life.
Powers said the album reflects a level of craft that he appreciates and admires and also was his way of “trying to create music that people enjoy and that’s fun,” he said. Similar to how Powers doesn’t take himself too seriously, that attitude exists in his lyrics as well. Notes of humor show up in Powers’ song “Simp” and also when he sings “existential dread is my bae” on his first track “Dread.”
Powers takes the back seat with his vocals on a few songs. Some are sung by other artists like in “Otro Planeta” featuring Rudy De Anda and in “Recovery” featuring M.E.R.C. At the record release party, Powers alongside Chris Sanchez on the drums, Elijah Harris on the guitar and Wyatt Waddell on the bass will play through Power Moves. Artists Julia Danielle, M.E.R.C, Kenneth Leftridge, Sam Veren and Garrett Munz will also be joining Powers on stage to perform featured songs.
This being Powers’ first time producing an entire album brings new feelings throughout the process. “I think when I’m working on people’s things, there’s a certain freedom there and I’m a little more confident in my skill set,” Powers said. He said he cares about the final product in both instances, but when it comes to working on his own work he can be far more meticulous.
For the most part, Powers’ motivation to push the album out has mostly to do with his personal drive and his ultimate desire for growth. “I just want to feel like there’s some momentum…for a minute now it’s kind of felt like I’m at the same spot,” he said.
Powers spoke in a humble tone,“I think everyone’s creating really beautiful, cool things in the city and that there’s plenty of space for all the people who are really taking it seriously, going hard at it,” he said.